Apple Suing HTC for Patent Infringement, Should Palm Worry? | webOS Nation

Apple Suing HTC for Patent Infringement, Should Palm Worry? 76

by Dieter Bohn Tue, 02 Mar 2010 12:29 pm EST


Over at Android Central, we hear that Apple is suing HTC for infringing on 20 iPhone patents. If you thought you heard fightin' words from Apple with regard to Palm, you ain't heard nothing yet:

“We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We’ve decided to do something about it,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.”

Apple has previously said "We are ready to suit up and go against anyone," and we figured that "anyone" had a healthy chance to be Palm. Instead, however, Apple has been locked in a patent war with Nokia and have apparently decided to open up a front with HTC.  Both Nokia and HTC surely have formidable patent portfolios, so it's no longer safe to assume Palm's own extensive portfolio is a guarantee that they won't see a brief from Apple someday.

The story's developing as we hunt down the filing and see what exactly Apple is crying foul over. Meanwhile we're imagining Palm execs whistling, walking, hands-in-pockets, looking at the birds, and doing their best to not appear conspicuous ...and maybe checking to see that they lawyers are on speed dial.

Update: Gizmodo has a list of the patents and they're pretty broad - many of them could definitely be said to apply to webOS. Luckily(?) patent wars like this take time, so it's going to take quite awhile to see how this all shakes out.



How is HTC the one they attack, and not Android?

I think they're going after HTC from a hardware and maybe a SenseUI perspective.

Apple can't win a battle against Android or WebOS for that matter. If I were a lawyer for Google or Palm, all I'd have to do ask the judge to browse a web page while listening to streaming radio from Pandora. Can't do it with an iPhone/iPodTouch/iPad.

Case closed! :-)

This is actually great news for Palm. Let Apple waste their time with patent lawsuits against the world. It would be foolish for any smart phone maker to sue Palm, because the potential gain is so low, but the potential costs are so high... 10% of Palm revenue is nothing, 10% of iPhone revenue is massive.

Apple doesn't dare sue Palm.

I would also think that Palm has enough patents (that Apple conveniently doesn't license) to wipe the floor with Apple's lawyers, so they would have to tread pretty carefully.

absolutely true. I would think that Palm's probably looking into that right now and threaten a counter suit if Apple threatens to take them to court.

I think that is an excellent question. I really don't think that Apple is afraid of Palm's patent holdings, although they definitely would be a consideration before any sort of litigation would take place. I think the bigger issue here is one that brings Google and Palm together: attacking Android or WebOS directly would be an inderect attack on Linux and the open source community at large. So, instead of going after the software that is running in the device, they are attacking a manufacturer's implementation of the software on a device. If they prove their point, it would amount to making it illegal to implement those features of Android on any device. If they succeed here, then Palm and Nokia would be easy to pick off afterwards.

I doubt that will happen though. Between all parties who have a stake in this maddness, Apple is becoming the bad neighbor, I wouldn't be surprised to see a backlash from some wide-ranging and unexpected sources to defend established markets. [Google, Nokia, MS, and to a lesser extent Palm, not to mention a plethora of unknown patent holders.]

Apple feeling the heat in the new smartphone market, and
they are loosing ground, so they need to show the other side
of them.
Apple thought the Iphone it will stay on the top and no
one can come closer to it. HTC after they announced the new
Suppersonic coming out the summer with faster processor
and bigger screen, and much more makes Apple feel the heat,
that`s why Apple sueing the HTC now. Apple not worry about
Palm,Palm not big as HTC, Apple after the big guys who can
build threat to them...

Hmm. yes, I agree that Apple is making these noises now because they see that Android and Maemo have the ability to take a chunk out of their sales in the future.

However, if Apple is looking for the "big guys", than Google is WAY WAY bigger than HTC. That is where the question comes, why sue HTC when your dispute is obviously with Android/Google?

You are probably right though about one thing: Apple does not see Palm as a threat. But that can change in the future, and this is a strategic move that, if successful, will make picking off all the others easy later.

seems apple is getting a little scared

apple alwasys been scared always been acting like NI

LOL! but I doubt these NI

Apple is one big bully!!! I hope Palm, Nokia, HTC, RIM, Motorola, kicks their ass!!!

I hope so too. I can't believe Apple fell into this hole, but with Jobs any level of douchebaggary is apparently possible.

Palm should be jumping for joy at this. It gives them another chance after they failed to make deadlines with the Pre. If they can get their stuff together for their next big release, fix their build quality problems, fix battery life (seriously just put a bigger battery in the next model), and get WebOS out of beta (there are still too many missing features to count as a smartphone OS, but after 1.4 they're damn close, just need to drop in voice recognition/command/dialing/recording/application access and add a few additional bluetooth profiles).

Apple might have just handed Palm another chance to become a major contender in the smartphone market. Don't fuck it up Palm!

"douchebaggary" LOL I have to try and use that in one of my meetings next week

I'm interested to see how this pans out. I hope Apple falls on their butts. The more news I read about the company the more I dislike it. I'm tempted to trade my iPods for Zunes just to get away from all things Apple. The other thing about apple patents is how ambiguous they are. How can you patent a hand movement? I can understand the technology behind the screen that interprets the movement. But to say all things pinch-to-zoom are Apple's sole property despite the way it is interpreted is beyond me.


AFAIC, all software, use (interface), and business method patents need to go away.

Patents exist to give someone a chance to manufacture something physical. You don't need them for this stuff. Patents were also intended to PROMOTE adaptation and progress. None of these ridiculous patents do anything of the sort.

Apple is a cult


Engadget covered something similar to this last year before the Pre launched. If I remember right, I believe Apple is infringing on a lot of Palm patents...

Here it is

Well I'm not sure they are going to sue Palm (but I've been wrong before) because this was the whole ordeal before the Pre came out. Apple was on the brink of suing Palm for multitouch and then everyone just backed off. Like the Cuban Missile Crisis except not with Nuclear Arms...but that's getting off topic. The point is these will go on forever and nothing will actually happen at the end. Have any of the Nokia-Apple suits ended yet? No. And they've been going on for years.

unibrow stole my thunder. Good job on finding the article.

thanks =)

They got to give their lawyers something to do. :-)

Is this over that stupid thing where apple shows they had patents for gestures on a mobile device before? Then, yes poor palm should worry. Darn you, apple.

apple is iinfriging on palm patents.. Key patents at that. But if apple sued palm the stock would go back to what it once was before the introduction of the pre.

Care to explain why you believe this?

read the link that I posted further up, explains things in detail.

Only thing I'm worried about is that our court systems are so banged up that apple has a chance of winning every case....sad....

Hilarity ensues.

Yo, Palm got they lawyas on speed dial

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are two of the oldest software thieves around, they have a lot of nerve!

This one sort of feels like a testing of the water. And I rather hope the sharks are biting.

Hey Apple: Sincere thanks for adding your take on smartphones. But for some of us you didn't quite hit the mark. Go ahead and try crapping on competition instead of trying to fight back with innovation. Hope it works for ya. /bitter editorial

Wow..ok I give up on Apple. I'm not going to follow any of the news related to iPhone because ever since they released that and open up the app store, they have just fallen in my eyes. They make too many stupid moves and now this. I guess this says something about Palm Patents though, they must be huge if , even after all this time, that Apple has let Palm go on without being sued.

My suspicion is it's more risk vs. reward. HTC underpins a solid chunk of what Android hardware is out there right now, and Android in general is a bigger threat to them at the moment.

Honestly, from what I've seen in the past, Apple doesn't usually tend to launch the suits to start with. ("Don't start a fight, but always finish one.") They seem not to want to bother going after patent infringement for the most part unless/until the other party makes a push at /Apple/. Nokia, for instance, trying to strong-arm Apple into licensing them all of Apple's mobile patents under threat of lawsuit over infringement on any patents Nokia owns.

This isn't to say Apple are the 'good guys' here, but based on past history I wouldn't be /entirely/ surprised if HTC tried to make some push against Apple that we've not yet heard of, to get them to license whatever, and it backfired and led to this. (It would explain why they're suddenly gung-ho against HTC, and haven't said word one about Palm.)

Really, though, patent law is just stupid at this point. Companies have to have portfolios of patents to 'defend' themselves, for one; Nokia came in and went 'ZOMG APPLE YOU ARE INFRINGING OUR STUFF, but we'll settle if you give us rights to all your patents!' And Apple went, 'OH REALLY? WELL, then, here's some of our patents you are CURRENTLY infringing, suck on that!' This is common enough in terms of patent lawsuits. But then you add to the fact that people end up having to be shown they're actively defending their patents or else lose them (or at least, other companies will try to make that argument in patent cases), and...

IANAL, but I /am/ a software developer who earned a patent for one of my previous employers and saw the process from that side. In my opinion, software patent law is just a horrible mess. In the end, we've built a system that not only encourages people to not share their toys, but in fact punishes them if they do (i.e., if they don't defend their patent portfolio). And so there's almost NEVER any good guys, in the end, just squabbling children.

Jobs can suck a ****

I don't think webos has too much to worry about, patent-wise. I'm sure palm has quite the mobile OS and handheld computing portfolio.

On a side note, wondering whether we should be scared of apple. Does anyone think the lack of love from Google is that they are afraid of our OS? Don't see why, since we are so small, but why is google so hostile to our OS lately?

If all these patents are enforced, I guess the only cell phones allowed will be an iPhone and an analog suitcase Motorola phone .. maybe, because I think it takes 2 hands to operate one and that might be considered multi-touch.

Luckily(?) patent wars like this take time, so it's going to take quite awhile to see how this all shakes out.

Luckily? I don't think so. All that time is not idle time. It's all billable time that eats into revenues. The longer this takes the better it is for the one with the biggest stockpile of cash at the beginning. I'm guess that's apple in all of these cases. But definitely if Apple were to sue Palm.

Man, I hate software patents. They don't work. See:

Muliti-touch is a licensed property. Apple doesn't have a patent for it. Touch screen on a phone may be a Palm patent though.

Patent wars happen. Nokia and Apple have money to keep their stuff in court for ad infinity, however. But, just cus Apple puts in a complaint will mean that Apple will win. Note, Apple lost their suit against Creative re the Original iPod Menu System (Patented first by Creative).

Is there a way to see Palm's Patents? I'm curious to see what kind of infringements Apple has made. Unfortunately it's probably written in that foreign language called "Lawyer Mumbo Jumbo" I'm trade marking that language name...But you guys can use it ;)

Only if Palm doesn't have a list of patents they're ready to use to counter-sue. They probably do, which is why Apple shut their trap on Palm and moved over to HTC.

That might be the point of Apple suing all these companies, Apple has the bigger money pile and so they choke the competition by suing them...and sit back while the other companies banks drain from the stress of having to defend. Why have they not sued Palm yet? In my opinion, Palm is not a big enough threat to them. If HTC and Nokia have to suffer from the strain of lawsuits and Palm jumps ahead because of it, then Apple will have no problems with suing Palm to maintain ahead of the game. Its a clever tactic if you ask me. I'm curious, wasn't Palm sued late last year for something? How did that turn out? I remember reading about it on here....hmmmm

As usual the only ones who will come out winners are the lawyers and the market manipulaters.

I'd like to take a minute to give a nod to our TiPB brethren. Glancing over the sentiment on their side, so far it's much the same. iPhone = innovation = nice work. This litigation = evilunhelpfulwtf. If even the fans aren't happy, something's amiss.

Call their suit and sue back.

A commenter over at Gizmodo said it best...Apple suing HTC most likely means that iPhone 4G isn't anything innovative, thus sue someone.

Considering that Apple literally stole many of the ideas for the iphone from Palm in the first place, Jobs has a lot of gall to make a statement regarding their 'inventions'. More profoundly, they absolutely stole, and later settled, the name iphone, which was a trademark owned by Cisco.

Apple's getting nervous, good to see. iPad is not going to be the smash hit they expected, and Android will overtake iPhone and their crappy ecosystem in the next 2-3 years.

The emperor's clothes are still black - for now, and he has an obligation to whine. Really not much to see here.

Correction my friend, PALM will overtake iphone and their crappy ecosystem in the next 2-3 years....:)

engadget had a nice write up when webos was announced comparing patents that apple and palm had. Basically would cancel each other out, hence why apple probably didn't do anything early on. The only down side would be palm would lose purely on the money side of things vs Apple. Apple could just keep the court stuff going while palm couldn't.

Urgh, can't companies just get along and spend resources on innovating instead of throwing hissy fits about ambiguous patents?!

No. Apple hates google but can't win in a lawsuit. So they go at HTC, which makes alot of android phones, a smaller company that apple could push around. When palm grows in marketshare and mindshare they (apple) will sue palm. But it is weird that most of those patents are used in this very phone I'm typing on. Apple hates google, google is trying to shut out palm, and palm picks at apple. It's a cycle. I really think android and webos will be the future with iphoneOS phasing out. Off topic: android os doesn't feel as smooth as webos, IMHO!

check it Steve Jobs admits to stealing technologies...:)

wow that is a GEM , yup GEM must watch for everyone on the forum.

Yep. Apple stole the mouse from Xerox. Check out the film "Pirates of Silicon Valley" if you ever get the chance. Goes through the whole beginning: Jobs steals from Xerox, Gates steals from Jobs. Everybody whines about it.

You were reposted by a Giz commenter, then rereposted by a Giz editor.

"A touch panel having a transparent capacitive sensing medium configured to detect multiple touches or near touches that occur at the same time..."

"In this case, they claim specifically a touch panel with a particular configuration of fine conductive lines in one layer combined with fine conductive lines running transverse to the first layer.

The most obvious way to avoid infringement of this technology would be to arrange your lines in a grid which was not perpendicular

The problem here is the patent office. They don't have people with enough knowledge in these areas to truly understand that half of Apple's patent ideas are actually not patentable. The rules/laws of patents are violated all the time by patents handed out to companies that have enough money to pay someone to write it in a manner such that only the "experts" in that field can clearly see it's too broad/vague or an already common, existing idea.

There really isn't an easy solution here as the only way the patent office could fix this is to get highly knowledgeable people in each of the MANY tech areas. But of course if you're that good/skilled in those technologies, you're working for Apple/Google/etc or starting your own company, not working in the patent office.

I think the better solution is to come up with a system similar to open source and RFCs where the public and a consortium of companies all work together to determine patent applications' validity.

Palm doesn't need to all. When Apple cried foul last year before the Pre came out, they realized that the dilemma went both ways because they learned that their iPhone infringed on a handful of Palm's patents. They forgot that Palm was the 1st smartphone maker...they were the 1st to bring touchscreen technology to mobile phones...and so forth. I do believe that infringing on patents is as wrong as plagurism. However, when it comes to technology there needs to be some type of sharing in order to make better and innovate. I just think in this case...Apple is just being a bully, but it's interesting to see that it is going up against Google.

I would love for Palm to be like, "hey wait, you guys. We invented the smartphone. Apple seems to be forgetting to pay us our licensing for the various (actually non-trivial) patents involved in such. They're going down." But that's just because I want to see David take down Goliath here, oh well.

I'm curious to see how this shakes down (and specifically, which of these nonsensically broad patents get tossed out by the judge)

Check out engadget... Apple just went after Android directly

HTC is the major ODM to Apples next competitor OS, Droid. Pretty certain Apple will try to take on Palm too when they start taking into their marketshare but not yet. Even if Apple did, it will be one hell of a legal war since Palm has a TON of patent infringements they can slap on Apple in return.

Alot of these patents that Apple somehow got, Im sorry could not have been legit and are too vague. Someone at the patent office has been living large. I would like to see Palm and HTC join up and challenge these patent claims. HTC and Palm were around LONG before apple thought of the idea for a phone and have more on them.

Apple is full of $hit...

They've already waged war against palm for patents. Turned out to be too much of a touchy area for Apple due to the original patents Palm had, so they dropped it.

They'd have a lot of balls to start pinning stuff on Palm.

the way I see it is that palm was the first to come out with a touch screen smartphone of any kind. And everyone of those stupid iphone commercials that have ever aired I have been able to say yes palm os and/or web os has been able to do that before iphone was even imagined. I believe there just getting scared. To me iphone is old news.

Technology would go a lot further if money wasn't involved. When we were kids, we had fun wrestling and playing against one another, not for money, maybe for the girls, whose stronger or something like that and the rules where simple.

It's easy for adults to take something fun and mess it up. When you add money to the equation, then it's not about who can make a better product or whose better. Its about who can do something and control who can't. We the consumers are loosing and corporations are winning our money.

Look at the Open Source community. That community is full of knowledge and if it wasn't for that community, Apple would not have what it [stole] has today.

The code they use to write their apple software started in the open source community.

Ok, PreCentral is officially fear-mongering, if that's even a word.

A little more research would show that Palm is sitting tight on some pretty big patents that Apple should cringe at. It's already been linked in this thread, but even Engadet did an exhaustive search through relevant patents for both companies before the Pre was even released.

I love the forums and the community here, but some responsible journalism on the news side would be a great thing to see. All this doom and gloom, "click now to see how Palm will fail today" crap is eating away at the credibility of this blog.

Ah... patents. One of the weird things is that patents aren't really used the way you'd expect and that turns up in a number of comments here.

First many companies primarily take patents to use defensively. The idea is to set up a sort of mutually assured destruction if someone tries to sue you.

Now any company with history in an area will have lots of patents, some of them so fundamental that there is no easy work around. So before sensible companies go to patent war they carefully check their patents versus their opponents to work out what will happen when the opponent counter-sues over their patents. Many patent battles end with not only the aggressor losing but also paying out over patents that the other company would not have sued over otherwise.

Now palm vs. apple would be mutually assured destruction. They both have lots of patents and it's not to hard to stop one company or another from being able to sell their products if one of the patent infringements looks strong enough to succeed - any NOBODY wants to be prevented from shipping their product.

So generally what happens is you sue a company with few patents and use that as a precedent to intimidate your real opponent.

In this case I'd guess Apple is suing HTC as they don't have the patent portfolio to endanger apple. That way they don't risk much damage and (as a bonus) really hurt the android phone ecosystem in the short term as HTC seem to make most of them.

If HTC lose and the patent is essential (say they forced them to not use multitouch) then they cripple google's android effort without having to face google directly - maybe this is why Apple and Google had their messy boardroom divorce last year? In any case, with a precedent set in a US court, even Google may not be able to get away.

The system in the US courts it`s not fair anyway, in my
opinion everyone should have the right to do so, not just
Apple or Nokia or Microsoft or Palm.
we all should enjoye the freedom doing thing together not
to fight each other like Apple and Nokia.
Anyway the court should take back the full authority from
everyone and let this world be trully free.
Apple it will pay big bucks to the authorities to win this
case anyway. It is just my opinion...

Also, found on the internet but originally from Babylon5

Londo Molari said it better:

Only a fool fights a war on two fronts, and only the king of fools fights a war on multiple fronts.

I don't think it's right but you can see the point - Apple suing anybody makes it unlikely they'll sue palm until it's done.

Close, but it's actually: "Only an idiot would fight a war on two fronts. Only the heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Idiots would fight a war on twelve fronts." -Londo Mollari

just watched it a few weeks ago actually. :)

- a fellow B5 and Pre user. :)

Apparently Steve Jobs believes only Apple can steal ideas:

One big thing Apple has to lose is having their patents submitted in court, only to have them basically obliterated as a result of submissions of prior art by the defense attorneys. Some of their patents have been proven to be technologies that Apple lifted from various university research projects and the like. Then again, I haven't really looked through these particular patents they're going to try and slam HTC with, but the ones that Apple sites the most often have been shown to have a serious problem with prior art. You'd think that Apple would be smarter to hold back that portfolio until they really needed it instead of trying to throw it all out there right now and possibly lose some of their patent foundation.

Meh, palm has nothing to worry about, didn't they have one of the first (if not first) pocket pc style platform/hardware that was touch sens? hello... at least LONG before apple crapped out the iPhone(y) for it's zealotical fanatics. steve jobs can give hand jobs imho.

Apple should go to that warm cozy place called H*E*L*L. The world would be much better for it.